Detroit saying farewell in royal fashion to Queen of Soul

Memorial items hang on New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Monday, Aug. 27, 2018. Aretha Franklin's funeral will be held at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit. Franklin died Aug. 16, 2018 of pancreatic cancer at the age of 76.(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

the Associated Press

DETROIT — Aretha Franklin had admirers the world over, but there’s no doubt the flame burned brightest in Detroit — the place she was raised and remained for most of her life.

It’s difficult to separate the singer from the city, so you better think that her town is saying farewell in royal fashion to its Queen of Soul, with a concert, public viewings and a funeral that’s expected to be attended by at least one former president, civil rights leaders and many other musical luminaries.

Here are some of the events and ways in which Detroit is paying respect to Franklin, who died Aug. 16 of pancreatic cancer at the age of 76:

Public viewings are planned Tuesday and Wednesday at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, which is also where civil rights icon Rosa Parks lay in repose after her 2005 death.

Thousands of mourners are expected to come to the museum, which had been the largest black museum in the United States until the National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in Washington, D.C., in 2016.

The Friday funeral at Detroit’s Greater Grace Temple is billed as an event for friends and family only.

The all-star lineup of performers includes Stevie Wonder, Faith Hill, Jennifer Hudson, Fantasia and Shirley Caesar. Also slated to perform are Ron Isley, Chaka Khan, Yolanda Adams, Jennifer Holliday and Franklin’s son, Edward Franklin.

The service will reflect Franklin’s strong gospel roots. Among the gospel voices expected to fill Greater Grace include Marvin Sapp, the Clark Sisters and Vanessa Bell Armstrong.

VIPs aren’t expected to be limited to the musical kind: Scheduled to speak at the service is former President Bill Clinton, whose inaugurations featured performances by Franklin. Others include the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, Bishop T. D. Jakes, Cicely Tyson, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Clive Davis and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.

Smokey Robinson also plans to pay tribute with words, not music. The Motown “Miracle” and Franklin grew up together and delivered a spine-tingling duet on Soul Train in 1979.

The Rev. Jasper Williams Jr., pastor of Atlanta’s Salem Baptist Church, will deliver the eulogy.

It’s expected to be a marathon service, perhaps lasting five hours or more.

The church also hosted Parks’ funeral, at which Franklin sang.

Greater Grace Temple is calling on people with pink Cadillacs to line up before the funeral in an effort to create a “Freeway of Love” in tribute to Franklin. That’s a nod to her funky ’80s tune of the same name that prominently featured the car in the lyrics and video.

Those who line the route get a special perk: The driver of the Caddy and one extra person will be admitted to the funeral.